An fMRI study of the role of suprapontine brain structures in the voluntary voiding control induced by pelvic floor contraction

Hao Zhang, Andre Reitz, Spyros Kollias, Paul Summers, Armin Curt, Brigitte Schurch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We have learned that micturition is comprised of two basic phases: storage and emptying; during bladder emptying, the pontine and periaqueductal gray (PAG) micturition center ensures coordinated inhibition of striated sphincter and pelvic floor muscles and relaxation of the internal urethral sphincter while the detrusor muscle contracts. Due to several disorders of the brain and spinal cord, the achieved voluntary control of bladder function can be impaired, and involuntary mechanisms of bladder activation again become evident. However, little has been discovered so far how higher brain centers strictly regulate the intricate process of micturition. The present functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study attempted to identify brain areas involved in such voluntary control of the micturition reflex by performing functional magnetic resonance imaging during a block design experiment in 12 healthy subjects. The protocol consisted of alternating periods of rest and pelvic muscle contraction during empty-bladder condition (EBC) and full-bladder condition (FBC). Repeated pelvic floor muscle contractions were performed during full bladder to induce a stronger contrast of bladder sensation, desire to void and inhibition of the micturition reflex triggering, since the subjects were asked not to urinate. Empty-bladder conditions were applied as control groups. Activation maps calculated by contrast of subtracting the two different conditions were purposed to disclose these brain areas that are involved during the inhibition of the micturition reflex, in which contrast, the SMA, bilateral putamen, right parietal cortex, right limbic system, and right cerebellum were found activated. The combined activation of basal ganglia, parietal cortex, limbic system, and cerebellum might support the assumption that a complex visceral sensory-motor program is involved during the inhibitory control of the micturition reflex.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)174-180
Number of pages7
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2005


  • Complex visceral sensory-motor program
  • Empty- and full-bladder conditions
  • Periaqueductal gray micturition center

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Neurology


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